So Drew Brees got an NFL-record $100 million, 5 year deal from the Saints. That they agreed to a contract surprised no one, that $60 million is guaranteed over three years surprised everyone. I’ll leave debating the wisdom of that much guaranteed money to others but finally getting some good news out of that franchise is refreshing. This was quite a slump buster.
But we can take the Brees milestone contract and view other prominent free agents in light of that contract. Sort of. Ray Rice and Matt Forte will, almost certainly, use the gigantic contract as some justification for their respective requests for large contracts. Forte especially out played his rookie contract over the past three years and has a legitimate claim to an above-market running back contract to compensate for the money he earned but didn’t get.
But does the Brees deal mean that Forte will have more leverage with the Bears? Likely not. The hang up with the Bears is not so much about the market for top level free agents as it is how long Forte will be worth top level free agent money. The Brees contract was about beginning the post-bounty era, securing the leader of the franchise and giving fans something to feel good about. Forte might very well be worth Arian Foster, Chris Johnson, Shady McCoy money – you could make a claim he’s more valuable to his club than these guys are to theirs – but the Bears’ concern is how durable he can be given the knee injuries he’s sustained. Brees could conceivably play out his five year deal and still be highly effective. Forte could conceivably be effective for half of a six year contract and be dead cap space for the rest.
I’ll be the first to admit, I think the Bears’ need to compensate Forte for what he did in past years. That’s fair. But his claim to franchise-player money for six more years just isn’t good business for the Bears and nothing Drew Brees nor the Saints have done changes that. Forte is not the face of his franchise (he isn’t even the face of his offense) and today’s NFL needs exceptional quarterbacks more than it needs exceptional running backs. The Brees contract, therefore, probably doesn’t have any implications on Forte’s value to the Bears.